Law enforcement officers recently met with Florida Representative Vern Buchanan to discuss a bill he is sponsoring that aims to increase penalties for those who kill police officers or first responders.
The bill, known as the Thin Blue Line Act, could make killing a police officer a capital offense.
“If you kill a police officer or a sheriff, it is a good chance that you’re going to get the death penalty. That’s what this is going to do,” Buchanan said.
The bill is intended to stem the tide of rising violence against police officers.
Language in the bill states that the intentional killing or attempted killing of a law enforcement officer, prosecutor, firefighter or first responder acting in the line of duty can be punishable under the federal death penalty statute.
The legislation would therefore afford state and local Florida law enforcement with the same protections federal officers have.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office released a statement urging lawmakers to support the bill.
Moody said, “Our brave law enforcement officers risk their lives daily to protect and serve their communities. The first seven months of this year alone resulted in unprecedented violent acts, resulting in dozens of line-of-duty deaths for officers across our nation. We cannot permit the anti-police sentiment and blatant disrespect for law enforcement to fester and grow.”
“I am asking congressional leaders to take immediate action to protect those who swore an oath to serve by supporting the Thin Blue Line Act. This legislation will provide local and state law enforcement officers the same protection and support currently provided to federal officers — acting as a deterrent to anyone who would look to harm an officer,” Moody continued in her statement.
According to the National Fraternal Order of Police, the number of officers shot while on duty has increased significantly over the last three years.
Last year, 346 officers were shot, and 63 died as a result of shootings. There were 17 officers shot in Florida in 2021.
Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan said it’s the most dangerous time for police officers she has seen in her career.
“I’m in law enforcement. I’m in my 35th year, and it’s never been like this, and it’s heartbreaking,” Bevan said. “These are young officers at the beginning of their career. They’re older officer’s days away from retirement.”
Bevan, who was at the meeting, said she hopes the bill will raise more awareness of the dangers officers face on the job and that things will soon get better.
“Hope that people are paying attention. Hope that things can and will get better,” she said.